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Hospital wards hit after rise in winter vomiting bug cases

A SURGE in winter vomiting is causing a major headache for hospitals.

There has been a 20pc rise in the number of people suffering from the infection compared to the same time last year.

The rapid rise is in line with the trend in the UK, where cases are now officially 52pc greater than this time last year and have reached a five-year high.

It has led to the closure of 45 hospital wards in Britain in the past two weeks alone.

Health Protection Surveillance agency personnel here have confirmed 1,094 cases for the first 45 weeks of this year -- an increase of 233 on the same period last year. There were 20 new cases confirmed in a single week and the statistics are likely to underestimate the true number, since many people treat themselves at home.



RESTRICTIONS

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and hospitals in Limerick and Mullingar have already got restrictions in place to try and control the spread of the bug.

Known as norovirus, the infection usually peaks in the winter months and this year it appears to have struck early, with November cases at levels normally seen later in the year.

Norovirus causes sudden onset vomiting and diarrhoea which lasts for about two days.

Elderly people and very young children are particularly vulnerable to complications because they can become dehydrated easily and may require hospital treatment.

Some people may suffer a raised temperature, chills, muscle aches and headaches. Symptoms begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected.

There is no specific treatment aside from letting the illness run its course. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

At the moment there is no vaccine against the infection because there are many different strains of norovirus.

csheehy@herald.ie


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